The infrequent and rambling thoughts of Paul Howse...

Introductory Guide to Rational Discussion

I love to talk. I love to debate. I love to air opinions, to play devil’s advocate, to test the limits of an idea through interrogation and dialogue. But sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. Most of the time this is because my interlocutor has failed to follow the basic rules of logical discussion.

I’m not pointing fingers. You know who you are.

Imagine my relief, therefore, when I found this gem while trawling the interwebs. I shall endeavour to make it required reading prior to all discussions of an involved nature in the future. Observe:

Brought to you by the wonderful people over at Critical Thinkers.


  1. March 23, 2011    

    Although I’m fairly sure this isn’t directed at me because I am capable of discussion, I know sometimes I am not interested in discussion or valid arguments. Therefore I would like to categorically state two things.
    1. “Nuh” is totally a valid argument.
    2. I have never claimed to be logical.

    xox T.

  2. Paul's Gravatar Paul
    March 23, 2011    

    No fear, T. I certainly wasn’t thinking of you when I posted this!

    • March 23, 2011    

      Didn’t think so, but I stand by my response.

  3. Dwayne's Gravatar Dwayne
    March 23, 2011    

    That’s an awesome flowchart. I’m definitely going to use that!

  4. April 22, 2012    

    “Are you prepared to abide by basic principles of reason in discussing this topic” And the little arrow goes diagonally down to the right where point #2 says:

    “The person asserting a position bears the onus of demonstrating its truth”

    While this is a really nice diagram, I just want to say…

    How obvious is it that the part I quoted was written by an atheist. Anyone who wants to lecture on how to abide by basic principles of reason should know that two people debating are ALWAYS both asserting something even if one is asserting something positive and the other a negative. For example, if there is a box and one person says – there is a cat in it, and the other says there is no cat: BOTH are asserting something. And just because the person has not proven or is unable to prove that there is a cat in there, does not mean the other person automatically wins.

    Otherwise, the diagram seems pretty nice :)

    • Paul's Gravatar Paul
      April 22, 2012    

      “..just because the person has not proven or is unable to prove that there is a cat in there, does not mean the other person automantically wins.” – Fine. If you want to make a truth statement, but have no intention of proving it, you are no longer having a rational discussion. No?

      Incidentally, I do not identify myself as an atheist, yet I agree with this chart.

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